1,000 Days of Freedom, Part 5: Hopes

I decided to end with something a little different from what I had done before. I had acknowledged my past and my present, so I thought it was important that I also acknowledge what I hope for in my future.

I chose sand dollars to represent my future hopes. Sand dollars are hard to come by, but when you find one, they are said to bring you good luck. Some traditions also say sand dollars symbolize peace.

I chose six sand dollars, and wrote one hope I have one each one.

To become psychologically, physically, and financially stable.

It’s been a struggle to achieve stability in any aspect. Psychologically, I’m not the best. I spend way too much of my life in therapeutic settings. I can’t take most medications, and the ones I can take don’t seem to work. They’re always telling me it’s going to take a lot of time to get better; it’s going to take a lot of time to undo 29 years of programming. Those who know my story tell me I’m doing great considering what I’ve experienced. I could have died. I guess they are right.

Physically, I know I’m never going to be 100%. My health issues are not curable. Some will get progressively worse over time. I just want to be able to feel better, to gain whatever control I can have, if that’s even possible, over my illnesses. I want to be able to stand up and walk without people being afraid I’m going to drop.

I want to be able to live with more than $1 in my bank account. I want to be able to go out without having to sell something to pay for the bus. I don’t want to be a burden on others, even if they tell me I’m not. Whether it’s financial assistance or some kind of work, I just want to be more secure and stable.

To get justice for myself and others.

I still feel responsible for leaving people behind, for leaving my mother behind so she could hurt others. I know it’s not my fault, that her actions are not my responsibility. But I long for justice. I want my mother to be punished for what she has done, for all the crimes she has committed. I want that for me, and for the other people she has hurt. I know it’s difficult to go through a trial. I know a lot of therapists don’t recommend re-traumatizing yourself for the sake of justice. But I hope one day, I can be strong enough to go through it. And if I can’t, that I can find some other way to get even just a semblance of justice.

To know my purpose in life.

I never had a chance in my first 29 years to learn who I was, to gain any sense of what my purpose was in life. Even after I ran away, I spent so much time focusing on therapy and work that I really didn’t spend enough time trying to find myself. I thought my purpose was to be a therapist and help others like me, but after the incident with my grad school that led to my removal, I lost that sense of purpose.

Perhaps it’s not about how far I can get in my education. Perhaps I don’t even need a degree to do what I was meant to do. Maybe I am meant to be a writer. Maybe I am meant to speak out about abusers like my mother.

My therapist always asks me if I’ve built a skyscraper yet. He said in one of our first sessions that I am the type of person who has the intelligence and the drive to do amazing things; he said one day, I’m going to have my own skyscraper. I have no desire to do that, but I understand what he’s saying to me. I can do things. I just have to figure out where to start.

To help others like me.

I’ve already started to do this, I think. I put myself out there when I started writing professionally, and I’ve had so many people reach out and tell me how much my writing and my honesty has helped them. I know I haven’t done much with PAFPAC lately. It’s been difficult to manage everything I am doing by myself, tired and sick. I want to do more one day, but I need to work on myself first.

To know what it’s like to live without wanting to die.

I’ve been wanting to die since I was six years old. Not a day goes by that I don’t think, even for a moment, that dying would be so much easier than living. I’m chronically suicidal to the point that it’s become normal to me. The thoughts come up at any time; some triggered by events or trauma anniversaries, but some don’t even have a reason to be there.

It’s exhausting. It’s like I’ve been fighting a battle that will never end. I just want to live without those thoughts. I don’t want to have to worry about waiting for the urges to get stronger, because I know from experience they will get stronger. I want to live a day without the weight of that on my mind. Just one day.

To accept that I’ll never know or understand why.

I think this is the most difficult hope for me, and yet the most necessary. I’ve spent years trying to figure out why my mother did what she did. I’ve read every book on sociopaths and narcissists. I’ve studied psychology and neuroscience. I’ve shared with others who have had similar experiences and I still can’t come up with a reason why. I need something to blame; for some reason, blaming her hasn’t been enough. It’s keeping me stuck.

I’ll never be able to understand why I have this life. I’ll never understand why I had to endure things that no child, no person should ever have to endure. I’ll never be able to rationalize the pain and hurt I feel every day of my life. Sometimes, there aren’t reasons. Sometimes, we will never know why. I will never know why. And that’s okay.

I will be okay.

Don’t go looking for the reasons
Don’t go asking Jesus why
We’re not meant to know the answers
They belong to the by and by

–Chris Stapleton, Broken Halos

It could be worse

I woke up this morning feeling the most neutral I had felt in days. I didn’t have to wake up early for work, so I slept in. I took my time getting dressed and ready for my therapy appointment in the afternoon. I wasn’t in a rush. I wasn’t feeling anxious. I wasn’t crying. I just was.

Until I found myself lying on the ground surrounded by strangers.

I don’t really know what happened. I got off the bus, just like I always do, and somehow ended up on the ground ten feet away. I didn’t realize that I fell until I saw the scrapes on the palms of my hands. Then I noticed the people. I didn’t see their faces, just their legs. And so many voices. Are you okay? Do you need help? What happened? They kept reaching out to help me, but I didn’t want their help. I wanted them to go away.

One of the bystanders was about to call an ambulance, but I shook my head no. That was enough motivation to get me out of my head well enough to get up off the ground (with the help of two or three people). I hobbled over to the bench and just sat there, trying to figure out what to do. My therapy appointment was in an hour. I couldn’t miss it. There was no way I could make it home to clean up and back in time for session.

So I sat on the bench and I tried not to cry. I tried not to feel. I told myself I was okay. I have to be strong. There is no time to be hurt.

After ten minutes or so, a man came by and asked to sit. I didn’t feel ready to get up. This man didn’t know anything, and I couldn’t tell him. So without saying a word, I got up and let him sit. I managed to walk across the street to the coffee shop, hoping to find a seat there, only to realize that school was out early, and the shop was overrun by teenagers. I propped myself up against the wall, unable to ask if someone would give up their chair. Within the span of minutes, I failed to assert my needs not only once, but twice.

I thought about how I was going to explain this to my therapist. I didn’t really know what happened. I just spaced out. Or tripped. Or got dizzy. I don’t know. I hadn’t eaten. I was afraid she would ask about that. I know I didn’t fall out of hunger. I’ve gone much longer without eating and I’ve been fine. I didn’t want that to come up as a possibility. I just wanted it to be a fall. Everyone falls. And I am fine.

I was so disconnected, I didn’t notice the blood on my shirt sleeve. My elbow was bleeding the whole time. This should be hurting. I should feel this hurting.

When I got to therapy, I stopped in the bathroom. I saw my knee, already swollen and bruising. I didn’t want to panic. I told myself it could be worse. I told myself that if I could walk on it, it must be fine.

Then all I could think about was what could go wrong. I thought about last year, when I fell in the street. How I dragged myself to the corner, got back up, and walked the rest of the way to the bus stop and went to work. I thought I was fine. Until I found out I had broken my foot. I spent the day walking on a broken foot like it was nothing. And that scares me.

I didn’t want to tell my therapist at all. I didn’t have enough time to process all of it. But I started to break down before I even stepped in to her office. I had to pull myself together. I told her I was okay. I’m always okay. I didn’t want her to see that I wasn’t. I didn’t even want to see that I wasn’t.

I cleaned myself up when I got home. I looked at my knee. More bruising. More swelling. But I couldn’t connect with the pain. Why can’t I always connect with pain? It’s easy when my emotions are activated. Then I feel everything. But when I am numb, I am numb to everything. I need some kind of in between.

How could I explain that to a doctor? They ask about levels of pain and I find myself struggling between what I actually feel in the moment and what I know it should be. Tell a doctor you’re not in pain, and you’re automatically dismissed. It’s one reason I try to avoid emergency situations. They cause me more anxiety than the injuries themselves.

Now I am sitting here rationalizing my avoidance. It could be worse. This is nothing. I don’t really have the time to be in pain. This will go away.

I know these rationalizations well. They are the same lines I’ve told myself since childhood, all stemming from the belief that I am unworthy of care, the belief my parents taught me. The man at the bench. The kids at the coffee shop. Everyone else on earth. They all matter more than me.

I know better than this. So why am I still living my life by their rules?